A majority of well-known composers have written at least a few chamber compositions in their entire lifetime. The most famous would have to be Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and probably Prokofiev. Some, including Respighi and Vaughan Williams, are overlooked or even rejected in today's society. Whether it's because of lack of originality or excessive complexities, these sorts of compositions are always left in the dark. Take Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, for instance. This 35-minute work doesn't receive the complete recognition it deserves. It's overshadowed by the composer's piano concertos and symphonies, all of which are respectfully first-rate works in their own right.
Although Sergei Rachmaninov considered himself first and foremost a composer, the last two decades of his life found him knee-deep in his “second career” as a touring concert pianist and recording artist. In 1992, RCA Gold Seal brought out all of Rachmaninov’s recorded performances in a 10-disc set, now reprinted as a space-saving budget box.
Kiril Kondrashin was perhaps the greatest conductor to emerge from the Soviet Union. Trained at the Moscow Conervatory, he led most of the Soviet Union's great orchestras although he is most well-known for his stints at the Bolshoi Theater and as principal conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra from 1960 to 1976. He defected to the west in 1979 during a tour in Holland. He was immediately named a principal conductor alongside Bernard Haitink to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
This massive six-disc compilation covers some of the best of Kondrashin's work while behind the iron curtain. It includes no less than four of Prokofiev's major works: the First and Third Piano Concertos, the Second Violin Concerto, and the October Cantata, Op. 74, a work for which he gave the original premiere performance in 1966.
The appeal of this release hinges more on its sound quality than on the quality of its well-known and excellent performances. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound very good. One can more or less hear Richter – details of articulation occasionally get lost, inner voices are sometimes obscured, and bigger sonorities are often opaque – but he sounds like he's miles away. One can hear Sanderling and the USSR Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra only faintly when they're quiet, somewhat better when they're louder, and all too well when they're really loud. There have been better releases of these recordings in the past – many listeners prefer the 1995 BMG-Melodiya issues – and there will likely be better releases in the future. This one's not worth it except for Richter specialists who have to have every release of every performance Richter ever recorded.
While Sergey Rachmaninov is justly celebrated for his piano concertos and symphonies, his sets of variations shouldn't be overlooked, for they are among his most inventive and satisfying works. Russian pianist Danil Trifonov plays the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin, and the Variations on a Theme of Corelli on this 2015 Deutsche Grammophon release, and he offers his own special tribute to the composer in his solo piano suite, Rachmaniana. For the Rhapsody, Trifonov is joined by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, an ensemble that counts historic performances with Rachmaninov as part of its heritage, and plays with its characteristic lush sound and passionate expression…